Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rustic Vegetable Soup with Almond Pesto Topping

I really like making soup. To me it's comfort and goodness in a bowl and all I need is a spoon. I made this soup and my husband had one word for it, "Delicious." It's easy to put together and with the pesto on top it has a fresh taste that's very satisfying.

Rustic Vegetable Soup with Almond Pesto Topping

2 T. olive oil
2 small onions, rough chop, 1 - 1 1/2 C.
2 carrots, rough chop, 1/2 C.
5 cloves garlic, rough chop
1 quart vegetable broth, low sodium
1 28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 cube of vegetable bouillon
1 16 oz. can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 19 oz. can of cannellini  beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. fresh Italian parsley, rough chop
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots and onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the salt and pepper, and cook slowly for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the Almond Pesto on top. 

Almond Pesto Topping

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until chopped small. Add the basil leaves and pulse until the basil is shredded. Add the olive oil and pulse quickly just until fully incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

1/4 C. almonds
1/2 C. packed basil leaves
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sparkling Sangria

My husband and I were in Chicago for the weekend and our girls had recommended a restaurant. We decided to try it and ended up there for dinner. They were right, it was great, but the star of the evening was the sangria.

Maybe it's because I've never had a sparkling sangria before, but I really enjoyed it and found it a nice change of pace. So I jotted down the ingredients and came home with the idea of recreating it. Certainly this isn't the exact recipe, but it's close. And don't let it sit like other sangria's because you don't want to lose the effervescence of the sparkling wine. Just make it and serve! My family really liked it. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sparkling Sangria

1 1/2 oz. of Licor 43
1 1/2 oz. of Creme de Cassis
1 oz. of simple syrup
1/2 a lemon, sliced thinly
1 orange, sliced thinly
1 pint of raspberries
1 bottle of chilled Cava, or other sparkling wine

In a large pitcher combine the Licor 43, Creme de Cassis and simple syrup. Stir. Add all of the fruit and gently mix. Add the cava and serve on ice.

Simple Syrup 

1/3 C sugar
1/3 C water

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool before using.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Meditation...Another AMAZING article by my Uncle Gene... Enjoy!

The Practice of....

Meditation! I come back, on a regular basis, to the importance of the practice of Meditation. If you want to improve your life and your health in the New Year, you too might want to begin the practice of meditation, or improve upon your practice, if you have been doing it for a long time. I have practiced meditation, in one form or another, for over fifty years, and I find the practice becomes increasingly important for me. I have written about it in various places, and I often find myself trying to improve on what I have said before. Here is the gist of it:

Set aside some secure time, find a comfortable position, and meditate just for the sake of meditation. Focus your mind on your breathing, and meditate with no specific purpose in mind. Do not be surprised if, over time, meditation becomes the root of major changes in your attitudes and dispositions. It has been well documented that meditation works to reduce the feelings of stress, and we all face some major sources of stress each day. Meditation can easily become the most important activity of your day. "Meditation is not the killing of time. It is the deepening and enriching of time." 

There are many sources of stress in our lives. Most cardiac care programs are composed of sessions on diet, exercise, and stress reduction. I handle the stresses of daily life much better, if I start off the day with a few minutes of walking meditation, in which I do nothing but try to breathe deeply, while setting my mind at peace. There are many different masters of meditation, and many different religious traditions have generated their own methods of meditation. I have found Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Peace Is Every Step, to be particularly helpful, and I find what he says is applicable to many different forms of meditation. The following paragraph says it better than I ever could:

"Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing in order to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing, both inside and around yourself. Plant the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness."

--With the New Year, I know I have many new readers for these "occasional" reminders about "the things that really matter." What I offer is the distillation of many years of "philosophical" thought, results of my encounters with people much wiser than I, and people who have in one way or another mastered the art of living. I have been a cardiac patient, and have been "in death's vestibule" a time or two, so I have a deeper sense of the importance of living each day as well as possible. The year 2012 has all the earmarks of becoming a year of multiple sources of stress for all of us. Is it too much to ask of yourself that you set aside a few minutes everyday to practice some form of meditation, to be sure you spend some time concentrating on your own breathing, and develop some sense of trying to live in harmony with your surroundings? It might be one way of making sure that you make the most of the golden opportunities that every new year brings...
--Gene Bammel

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ratatouille Appetizer

My husband and I went north for New Years Eve and spent it with family. My sister Kathy organized the celebration and did nearly all of the cooking. She's an amazing cook. She thinks of everything! So when I walked in to find a vegan appetizer, I wasn't surprised. As usual, it was fantastic.  I begged her for the recipe and she sent it on to share along with this note.

"Here is the recipe for the ratatouille! This is my tweaked version of a recipe from a newspaper insert. I can't remember which one! You can use it as a main vegan dish or do the appetizer. If doing the appetizer, you should still have leftover ratatouille. I think this would also be great served over pasta."

I cannot adequately express how beautiful this appetizer is to look at, and it's soooo delicious! Thank you Kathy!

Yummy over pasta too!
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced 
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium orange bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1/2 medium eggplant, diced (My sister used a bit less and left the eggplant unpeeled, but you could peel it if desired)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 t coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
30 - 45 mini phyllo cups

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook for 2 minutes. Add yellow and orange bell peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant and cook for 2 more minutes. Add garlic, tomato, salt and pepper and cook for about 1 minute.

To make into an appetizer, spoon ratatouille into the mini phyllo cups and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes, or until heated through.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie

Ahhhhh... comfort food. Winter screams comfort food, doesn't it? And this is something I've been missing... pot pie. I use to love chicken pot pie. I remember eating it with delight as a kid and that continued well into my adulthood. So I thought I'd try making a vegan version. My family liked it and so did I!!

It was fun to make, and if you buy pre-cut or frozen vegetables it goes together easily. If you've never used phyllo dough, don't let that get in the way. Just follow the directions on the package. If a sheet or two breaks in the process, don't worry, no one will know... but you could substitute the phyllo for a vegan pie crust if you like. 

Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie

This recipe can be made in ramekins. If you do that, it should make at least four individual servings.?? 

2 T olive oil
1 C onion, diced
1 C celery, diced
1 C carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C cauliflower, diced
2 Russet potatoes, cubed small
3 T flour
2 C vegetable broth
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 C frozen green beans
1 C frozen corn kernels
garlic powder
celery salt
1/2 t salt
freshly ground pepper

10 sheets of phyllo dough, you'll use 1/2 of a package
Earth Balance 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the cauliflower and russet potatoes and continue to cook for 5 - 10 minutes. Stir often so the vegetables don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the flour and stir it into the vegetables. Once fully incorporated, add the broth and bouillon and scrap all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaf, thyme, greens beans, corn, garlic powder, celery salt, salt and pepper and simmer on low, stirring often, for 20 - 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, melt some Earth Balance and get the phyllo out of the refrigerator. Once the vegetables are done, remove the bay leaf and sprig of thyme, and pour into a  9" X 13" pan. Lay a single sheet of phyllo on top of the vegetable mixture and brush with Earth Balance. Place another sheet on top of that brushing it with Earth Balance. Repeat the process until all the sheets are used. Brush the top of the last piece with Earth Balance and put the pot pie in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until it is golden and the mixture is bubbling up around the edges. Let it sit a few minutes before serving.

Note: The picture is not mine.